Cricket World Cup Preview

Written by Square in the Air

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The 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, which starts on Friday, promises to be one of the most open since its inception in 1975 - when this year's hosts Australia lost to the West Indies at Lord's by just 17 runs. 40 years on and the Aussies, who have lifted the trophy more than any other nation, will bid to be the third country to become global champions on home soil. They have lost just two of their last 36 World Cup matches, and so it's not surprising that they start as favourites on Sporting Index's Outright 100 Index, trading at 58-62. (Winner = 100 points, Runner-up = 75 points, Lose Semi-Final = 50 points, Lose Quarter-Final = 25 points, Group Stage = 0 points).

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However, there are a few other sides who have a legitimate chance of spoiling Michael Clarke's men's fun as the days of simply assuming an Australian victory are long gone. Coached by Russell Domingo and captained by wicket-keeper/batsman AB de Villiers, the South African outfit are priced at 52-56.

If the skipper continues to deliver his incredible form, he may well inspire his side to reach their first ever final. They have disappointed plenty in the past, though, and have a reputation for being chokers on the world stage, so caution is advised. Team New Zealand, led by Brendon McCullum, have also witnessed some scintillating displays from their leader recently. He's been backed up by the likes of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Luke Ronchi, all of whom are capable of chasing down big totals.

The Kiwis are trading at 48-52 and would love nothing more than to win the trophy on their neighbours' turf. They are the main threat to Australia. England have the potential to cause an upset or two and create history by being the first European country to lift the trophy. Having released Kevin Pietersen of national service, Peter Moores and Dublin-born Eoin Morgan appear to have full control of the camp, but their performances have been unpredictable over the last year and a World Cup is no place for inconsistency. Bowlers James Anderson, Stuart Board and Steven Finn will be vitally important in case they have to defend a poor total after a trademark collapse - the team's Achilles heel. Although they are not the side of 2012, when they won 10 consecutive matches, they do pose as a threat on a going day. They are trading at 43-47 on Sporting Index's 100 point Outright Index.

They lost to Australia by 106 runs last Sunday after being on the receiving end of all-rounder Glenn Maxwell's 122 and are renowned for being poor travellers. They are far too dependent on their one world-class player, batsman Virat Kohli, with Rohit Sharma struggling through injury and a sell at 44 on the Index is recommended. With home advantage, and as the side with arguably the most refined fast-bowling attack in the tournament, the hosts are going to be difficult to contain. The explosive pair of David Warner and Aaron Finch at the top of the order will be hard for any defence to hold down.

The national football team took Asian Cup glory on home soil at the end of January and, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday 29th March, the country could well be celebrating more sporting glory. Ireland won't win this tournament but of all the minnows, they have the best chance of causing an upset or two. In a Group B up against an out-of-form India, a lowly United Arab Emirates and a Zimbabwe team that were getting battered by Bangladesh last year in their ODI Series, the Irish could well pick up a couple of wins.

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